Brands in Context

Posted by & filed under Brand Design.

Every morning my 12-year-old son comes to me to do his hair. He’s very capable of doing his own hair, but it gives me the opportunity to have some rare face-to-face time with a pre-teen. It’s a chance to casually check in with him, so I continue to oblige. Our son was lucky enough to get his mom’s hair and not mine. So after I finish styling his hair and turn to the mirror to do my own thinning hair, I always have a moment of pause.

It’s the one time in my day when I question whether it’s time to shave my head and move on. I’m not self-conscious about my hair, but I have a deep-seated hatred of combovers and I’ve come to terms with the fact that the time will come for a new look soon. But for now, the only reason I question whether the time has come is because I’m looking at my own hair in comparison to my son’s beautiful, thick hair. Stick with me here…there’s a branding lesson coming.

One of the most valuable pieces of information we pull from our DISCOVER phase is a competitive review. We look at what your industry’s up to. We try to find opportunities to take advantage of any white spaces left and how we want to fill them. We pick and choose how best to do so without losing the essence of the brand. And we look at the brand in context, the same way I look at my hair next to my son’s every morning.

There are always striking differences when a brand is viewed out in the real world. Sometimes you’ll see a brand online, surrounded by the beautiful graphics and website built to support that brand, but when you see that same brand on a search results page on Amazon, the impression is strikingly different. And it’s even different on a store shelf. That’s okay, but it’s just something to be considered. And it’s most definitely something to keep in mind during the DISCOVER phase so the context where the brand shines most brightly is the focus.

So make sure you have a good look at your brand while it’s surrounded by competitors and in different settings. Hopefully, you’ll find it portrays the essence of the brand perfectly. But there’s always a chance it’s time to take another look at things so you don’t end up like that guy who doesn’t know how tragic a combover really is.

Brandt Hoekenga is the Founder and Creative Director for TIV Branding


TIV Branding is a boutique branding firm in Sonoma County, California. We specialize in building brands by using traditional, social and digital channels in unison. If you would like to discuss a project or find out more about how we do what we do, please email us at